Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Thursday, 28 August 2008 17:08 UK

Stars scared as Strictly starts

Strictly Come Dancing
Celebrities (l-r) Gillian Taylforth, Mark Foster, Lisa Snowdon and Gary Rhodes are taking part

By Genevieve Hassan
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

With only three weeks to go before Strictly Come Dancing returns, this year's crop of celebrity contestants are shaking in their sequinned suits.

"It is frightening," says celebrity chef Gary Rhodes, one of 16 new dancefloor hopefuls.

"When you're watching at home you think, 'I can do that', until you find yourself in a studio and you realise you can't do it at all.

"The skill of these people is phenomenal."

The 16 Strictly hopefuls prepare to take the dancefloor by storm

Former EastEnders actress Jessie Wallace also admits she is apprehensive at the prospect of the show's trickier dance routines.

"I'm scared of doing the foxtrot and the quickstep because it's so graceful and I'm so not!" she says.

"I'm just focussing on getting it right."


So aside from the lure of tight lycra and sequins, what makes a celebrity sign up to the show?

For GMTV presenter Andrew Castle, it was his colleagues and former Strictly contestants Fiona Phillips and Kate Garraway who tipped him over the edge.

"I spoke to them about it and both of them said 'it's going to be the best time of your life'," he reveals.

"Everybody who's ever done it has said the same thing... So here we are."

I nod a lot and tap my foot at parties - I had no idea how technical this would be.
Jodie Kidd

Wallace says she joined the show simply because she wanted to learn how to dance, but reveals her real hidden motive: "It's a great excuse to wear beautiful dresses."

Most of the contestants have little to no previous dancing experience.

"I know the mashed potato," reveals another former EastEnders star, Phil Daniels.

"But apart from that I haven't really done any dancing."

Daniels admits he has, however, been receiving dancing tips from his on-screen son and last year's runner-up, Matt Di Angelo: "He's told me to glide and not to take any notice of anybody."


Model Jodie Kidd is also keen to point out she has "absolutely zero" dancing ability.

"I race cars and play golf and polo," she says.

"I nod a lot and tap my foot at parties - I had no idea how technical this would be."

One contestant who is familiar with dancing is Rachel Stevens, who became famous as part of the pop group S Club 7.

Rachel Stevens and Vincent Simone
Rachel Stevens will be partnered by Vincent Simone

But the singer - last seen in a contact lens advert - does not think her stage background gives her an advantage in the competition.

"A dance routine in a pop band is very different from this kind of dancing," she says.

"I feel the pressure so much but I think I've just got to remember that the only pressure we have is the pressure we put on ourselves, so I just want to have fun."

Along with the long rehearsal hours comes the pain, and the contestants are already suffering at this early stage of their training regime.

"I thought I was a reasonably fit guy," says Rhodes,

"But forget it, my thighs are aching so much - and I've got blisters all over my feet."

TV presenter Lisa Snowdon is also feeling the pain: "My feet are in bits - I'm going to have really gnarly feet afterwards and I've got wicked bruises and bumps," she says.


There have long been claims of tension backstage between the stars and dancers.

Most recently, former Strictly dancer Nicole Cutler told a Sunday newspaper of bitterness behind the scenes during the show's last series.

But professional dancers Darren Bennett and Erin Boag dismiss the claims of backstage backbiting.

"It's not bitchy at all backstage - it's actually very friendly," says Boag, who has twice reached the final of the show with stars Julian Clary and former athlete Colin Jackson.

"We all get on, we're all training and get tired and we keep encouraging each other.

Bennett, who won series two with actress Jill Halfpenny agrees: "Most of us have known each other professionally since we were youngsters."

"We've all competed against each other for years and years so we all know each other inside out - it just doesn't exist."

The contestants will get to find out for themselves when the new series kicks off on Saturday, 20 September.

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